BY SPNW Staff 08:00AM 03/09/2012

Ichiro returns to Japan a legend, not a superstar

Art Thiel’s story in Puget Sound Business Journal explores the declining attraction of Ichiro in his homeland as his skills decline, the Mariners lose and other Japanese stars arrive in the U.S.

For a decade, Ichiro was at the vortex of all things Mariner, but things have changed. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

In two weeks, the Mariners fly to Japan for a week-long visit that includes two regular-season games with the Oakland A’s and a professional homecoming for Ichiro.

Arriving 11 years ago from Japan amid skepticism about his ability to cut it in Major League Baseball, Ichiro impressed and dazzled American players and fans — and amazed his countrymen, who had never before exported one of their own to the global pop-culture stage. Homeland fans and media could not get enough of his exploits.

Now, at 38, Ichiro is in his career twilight, and is no longer the attraction he was. As the Mariners have floundered,  more than two dozen Japanese players have followed Ichiro to MLB to make their own marks. While still popular, as one Japanese broadcaster put it, Ichiro has moved from “superstar” to “legendary.”

In Seattle, he remains the face of the franchise, and still the only player who brings in revenues by his mere presence. But it’s not nearly the amount some have imagined.

In the final year of his contract, the Mariners have a baseball and business decision to make: Extend the contract of a fading star, or let him go into free agency and end the baseball and business relationship that has been the best thing about a mostly dreary decade for the Mariners.

Art Thiel writes about the declining impact of Ichiro in an exclusive story for Puget Sound Business Journal, a sponsor of Sportspress Northwest’s trip to cover the Mariners in Japan.

Read the story at the Puget Sound Business Journal [paywall].


YourThoughts

  • Bayviewherb

    Ichiro only had one bad season. I watched him on base and it looked like he hasn’t lost a step speed wise. By putting him into the 3 hole, he will have an opportunity to bring in baserunners. He has always avoided power ball, but has exhibited power when he wanted to. Don’t write this guy off yet. Unless he looses speed, or bat speed he could actually gain stardom in his new role. Ichiro isn’t your average aging player. He is in exceptional physical shape and continues to report that way.

  • Bayviewherb

    Ichiro only had one bad season. I watched him on base and it looked like he hasn’t lost a step speed wise. By putting him into the 3 hole, he will have an opportunity to bring in baserunners. He has always avoided power ball, but has exhibited power when he wanted to. Don’t write this guy off yet. Unless he looses speed, or bat speed he could actually gain stardom in his new role. Ichiro isn’t your average aging player. He is in exceptional physical shape and continues to report that way.

  • RadioGuy

    I’m not ready to write Ichiro off yet, either, but when a guy who has relied on quickness coming out of the batter’s box or turning a single into a double turns 38, the end isn’t going to be that far off.  I agree that hitting third might induce him to start swinging for more power (given that some power is usually expected in that spot in the order), something we’ve all wanted to see out of curiosity if nothing else…can Ichiro hit longballs off live pitching instead of BP lobs your Aunt Matilda could redirect to the bullpen?

    And there’s nothing wrong with being “legendary,” either.  He’s surely earned that status.

  • RadioGuy

    I’m not ready to write Ichiro off yet, either, but when a guy who has relied on quickness coming out of the batter’s box or turning a single into a double turns 38, the end isn’t going to be that far off.  I agree that hitting third might induce him to start swinging for more power (given that some power is usually expected in that spot in the order), something we’ve all wanted to see out of curiosity if nothing else…can Ichiro hit longballs off live pitching instead of BP lobs your Aunt Matilda could redirect to the bullpen?

    And there’s nothing wrong with being “legendary,” either.  He’s surely earned that status.